Better for Business, Better for People, Better for the World
Publication date: 03/13/2018
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A Great Place to Work for All Better for Business, Better for People, Better for the World For twenty years, Great Place to Work has published its gold-standard list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, which appears first in Fortune magazine. But its latest research shows that what was good enough to be a "great" workplace ten or twenty years ago is not good enough now. Even at the best workplaces, leaders can and must do better. The vital differentiator for companies now is their people all their people. CEO Michael C. Bush and his team connect the dots to show how the emerging economy is about developing every ounce of human potential. Today's business climate is defined by speed, rapidly evolving social technologies, and customers and employees who expect values, not just value. As a result, leaders have to create an outstanding culture for all, no matter who they are or what they do for the organization. They must build a Great Place to Work For All. The authors share new research on how Great Places to Work For All outperform in the stock market and grow revenue three times faster than less-inclusive rivals. Bush and his team tell surprising, inspiring stories about how closing gaps in the work experience between groups of employees pays off for everyone. They document the ways Great Places to Work For All benefit the individuals working there and contribute to a better global society. And they introduce a new leadership framework, showing the advantages of what the authors define as Level 5 "For All" leaders. The times demand executives who not only are business savvy but are devoted to fairness, have deep faith in people, and empower all individuals to reach their full potential. This is a call to lead so organizations bring out the best in everyone.Back to Top ↑
Introduction: A Great Place to Work for All
What was good enough to be “great” 10 or 20 years ago is not good enough now. To survive and thrive in the future, organizations have to build Great Places to Work For All.
PART ONE: Better for Business
Chapter 1: More Revenue, More Profit
Great Places to Work For All are better for business. A consistent high-trust culture is quickly becoming critical for business success.
Chapter 2: A New Business Frontier
Social and technology changes require a new way of doing business.
Chapter 3: How to Succeed in the New Business Frontier
The key is maximizing human potential, through leadership effectiveness, values, and trust. Get those right, and you will see innovation and financial growth.
Chapter 4: Maximizing Human Potential Accelerates Performance
Closing gaps in employees' workplace experience accelerates business performance in terms of higher revenue, better stock performance and improved retention.
PART TWO: Better for People, Better for the World
Chapter 5: When the Workplace Works For Everyone
At Great Places to Work For All, all employees are able to bring the best of themselves, even as they enjoy healthier, more fulfilling lives.
Chapter 6: Better Business for a Better World
Great Places to Work For All help build a society defined by caring, fairness, shared prosperity and individual opportunity.
PART THREE: The “For All” Leadership Call
Chapter 7: Leading to a Great Place to Work For All
We define the key leadership behaviors for building a Great Place to Work For All, based on our newest research on effective leadership.
Conclusion: The For All Rocket Ship
Getting to Great Places to Work For All may be hard at times—bumpy even. But it's going to be the journey of the 21st century.
About the Authors
About Great Place to Work
Great Places to Work For All are better for business. A consistent high-trust culture is quickly becoming critical for business success.
To see the way a Great Place to Work For All wins in business, look at how a For All culture wins on the basketball court.
That is, look at the Golden State Warriors. The professional basketball team of the San Francisco Bay Area has a motto of “Strength in Numbers,” and they live up to it. In contrast to the conventional style of play that isolates the most talented players for scoring chances or defensive stops, the Warriors pass the ball incessantly on offense. And their defense involves all five players working together as a unit, constantly helping each other out and switching assignments.
For the 2016–17 season, they ranked as the second-most stingy defense in the NBA. The Warriors also ranked as the most efficient offense the past two years. They have finished first in assists each of the past three years—a sign of the cooperative, unselfish play that leads to easy baskets. These include the many three-point, long-distance shots that earned Warriors guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson the nickname “the Splash Brothers.”
Overall, the Warriors’ success over three seasons is unprecedented. They won 207 games amid just 37 losses—the best regular-season record in a three-year stretch in NBA history. The team won the league championship in 2015, came within a hair’s breadth of winning it in 2016, and won the title again in 2017.
To be sure, a key to the Warriors’ strong performance is the individual talent of their players, including two-time Most Valuable Player Curry as well as all-stars Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green. But the players are thriving in a culture that consciously builds trust and a strong, inclusive community. Coach Steve Kerr took the reins of the team in 2014, and one of his first acts was to establish a set of values that ran counter to business as usual in pro basketball. Kerr, a former player and NBA champion himself, declared “competition” to be one of the team’s four guiding principles. Nothing shocking there. But here were the three others: joy, mindfulness, and compassion. 5
In effect, Kerr wanted to bring a human touch to a sport that has at times taken itself too seriously and too often treated players more as machines than people with a love for the game. The compassion piece also signaled a level of caring and vulnerability rarely heard from a leader in any professional arena, let alone athletics.
The values aren’t just words on a wall for the Warriors. The team has stood out for team chat threads, group dinners, goofy pranks on each other off the court, and giddy celebrations during games.
Much of the esprit de corps flows from Kerr himself. He has proven to be a leader who respects everyone associated with the team and is willing to diversify his talent pool. For example, Kerr made a key strategy shift in the 2015 finals series based on a recommendation from one of his lowest-ranking coaching assistants. His staff includes a 70-year-old assistant coach—Ron Adams—and a female head of physical performance and sports medicine. And while Kerr is not shy about instructing his players, he is known for hearing them out as well. “Steve is a very good listener and because of that is able to solicit good ideas from his players,” Adams says. “They know what they say is going to be listened to and respected.” 6
Sports are always about teamwork, but the Warriors have pushed the concept to a new level. They are reaping the rewards of that push, including in the key area of talent attraction. Crucial to the 2017 title win was adding Durant, a former league Most Valuable Player, who was drawn to the Warriors’ camaraderie and winning ways. 7
Those winning ways are fueled by a culture that consciously brings out the best in everyone.
In effect, the Warriors are a perfect example of how Great Places to Work For All are better for business. Most organizations aren’t trying to win basketball games. But the same For All culture found in the Warriors will allow any business to enjoy more revenue and more profit.
Trust Fuels Performance
Central to a For All culture is a high level of trust. Our data and other evidence have demonstrated that high-trust cultures win in business.
- Believe leaders are credible (i.e., competent, communicative, honest)
- Believe they are treated with respect as people and professional
- Believe the workplace is fundamentally fair
For more than 30 years, Great Place to Work has studied and recognized organizations with high-trust cultures, in part through the Best Workplaces lists produced in partnership with FORTUNE magazine. For these companies, a defining feature of being recognized as a great workplace is a high level of organization-wide trust, as reported by employees. This research, along with findings from various independent research groups, illustrates that high levels of trust pay off. Among the business benefits of high-trust cultures are:
For more than a decade, an independent investment firm has tracked the stock performance of the publicly traded FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For. In a simulated portfolio that is reset with newly named list companies each year, the research shows Best Companies have a cumulative return nearly three times the benchmark Russell 3000 and Russell 1000 indices.
A separate, independent study came to similar conclusions. Alex Edmans of the London Business School conducted a complex four-year study that proved a high-trust culture precedes the Best Workplaces’ strong stock market performance, and not the other way around. He also found the 100 Best Companies delivered stock returns that beat their peers by 2 to 3 percent per year over a 26-year period. 8
A Great Place to Work study of the hospitals that made the 2016 FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For list found that, on average, these high-trust hospitals have Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) patient satisfaction scores that are significantly higher than the U.S. average for overall hospital rating and whether patients would recommend the hospital (see Figure 4). As patients are the end “customer” in a health care setting, these results demonstrate the positive impact a high-trust culture can have on the overall customer experience.
For All Accelerates Performance
So, high-trust workplaces outpace business rivals. But our latest research shows organizations must clear an even higher bar to reach their full potential.
As great as the 100 Best Companies are, they typically have had significant gaps in the employee experience between groups of people. For example, there are sizeable gaps in the work experience between men and women, salaried workers and non-salaried workers, and executives and individual contributors, to name a few of these differences. These gaps mean not everyone is having a positive experience, which means they are not likely to bring the best of what they have to offer to the organization.
At the same time, we are entering a new frontier in business. This largely uncharted territory is about developing every ounce of human potential, because every employee matters in an economy that is about connectivity, innovation, and human qualities like passion, character, and collaboration.
Societal and technological changes are creating new opportunities and challenges for organizations in the competition for loyal customers and talented employees. The millennial generation, in particular, is a highly diverse group that expects meaning, growth, and balance at work. A reputation for developing employees and for welcoming people from all backgrounds and walks of life is increasingly crucial to attracting and retaining the best team possible. In short, the emerging business climate compels organizations to create an outstanding culture for everyone.
Our latest research backs the idea that organizations must create Great Places to Work For All to thrive. For one thing, we found Great Places to Work For All leave competitors in the dust. In studying employee surveys from the 2017 100 Best and the non-winning contender companies, we found the more consistent an organization is on metrics related to innovation, leadership effectiveness, and trust, the more likely it is to outperform peers in revenue growth. In particular, companies in the top quartile on these metrics—which we call our For All Score—enjoy more than three times the revenue growth of companies in the bottom quartile (see Figure 5).
We also found Great Places to Work For All grow their revenue faster than companies that simply show high levels of trust on average.
Up until this past year, we measured the employee experience by examining the overall, average response to our Trust Index Employee Survey. This “old” approach—which has been the foundation of our ranking of the FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For list for the past 20 years—didn’t take into account statistically significant gaps that may exist between demographic groups.
In 2017, the organizations that ranked highest according to the new For All methodology proved to be a different set of companies than those that ranked highest when using the traditional methodology. And the top tier of these new For All companies grew faster than the best companies determined by our traditional methodology. We found 13.7 percent median annual revenue growth for the top quartile of companies on the For All Score ranking. That compares to 12.5 percent annual revenue growth for the top quartile of companies ranked by our traditional way of gauging the employee experience (see Figure 6 ).
This follows other evidence from us and others that inclusive cultures provide more value to shareholders and all stakeholders:
In a 2015 report, consulting firm McKinsey examined 366 public companies across a range of industries in Canada, Latin America, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and found companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially. Gender-diverse companies were 15 percent more likely to outperform peers with little gender diversity, while ethnically diverse companies were 35 percent more likely to outperform less-diverse peers. 9
A 2016 study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics involving nearly 22,000 firms from 91 countries found “the presence of women in corporate leadership positions may improve firm performance” and that “the payoffs of policies that facilitate women rising through the corporate ranks more broadly could be significant.” 10
Our own research in producing the 2016 Best Workplaces for Diversity list showed that the most inclusive workplaces experienced average annual revenue gains 24 percent higher than their peer companies certified by Great Place to Work.
Our study suggested that just hiring a demographically diverse workforce will not by itself boost results. Simply increasing headcount diversity did not show a strong connection to revenue growth. Instead, our data showed that employees’ experience of genuine workplace inclusion—as seen by high, consistent survey scores in areas such as fair treatment and a caring environment—is a better predictor of revenue growth than diversity alone. 11
Leading companies, including many FORTUNE 100 Best Companies, are on the path to For All workplaces. They are working to close the gaps in the employee experience. And they are seeing payoffs.
Take software giant Salesforce, a perennial 100 Best Company. CEO Marc Benioff and his team invested $3 million in 2015 to address a gender pay gap at the company. The move, along with a host of other equality efforts, has reaped rewards. Salesforce is becoming a beacon for talented women in technology, and it’s enjoying the fruits of a more fully engaged workforce. The percentage of women employees who say they want to work at Salesforce for a long time jumped from 85 percent in 2014 to 93 percent in 2016. And 92 percent of female employees in 2016 said people look forward to coming to work at Salesforce, up from 85 percent in 2014.
Salesforce has not rested on its laurels on the gender pay issue. It conducted a similar pay equity study in 2017, investing $3 million more to close compensation gaps. Perhaps not surprisingly, the company has been growing faster than its rivals, and it dominates the customer relationship management software market. 12, 13
But the Golden State Warriors may be the winningest of them all these days—and not just on the court. With its “Strength in Numbers” culture as a foundation, the franchise has been raking in business rewards as well. The value of the team rose an NBA-high 37 percent to $2.6 billion in 2017, leapfrogging from sixth place to third place in the league.
With their season ticket renewal rate at 99.5 percent, the Warriors felt confident enough in 2017 to raise season ticket prices by 15 to 25 percent. And the organization landed a $300 million deal with Chase to name the Warriors’ new stadium—a record price for a U.S. arena. 14
Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob caught some flak for boasting in a 2016 New York Times profile that the organization, with its “Silicon Valley precepts” such as open communication and collaborative decision making, is superior to its peers. “We’re light-years ahead of probably every other team in structure, in planning, in how we’re going to go about things,” Lacob told the Times. 15 Lacob may be guilty of bravado, but there’s little arguing with the way he and his partners have seen their investment blossom. They bought the team for $450 million in 2010, meaning their ROI as of 2017 was a gain of nearly 500 percent.
The Warriors culture is where businesses must go as well. The business case for a Great Place to Work For All isn’t merely a two-point slam dunk. It’s better. It’s a three-point splash.Back to Top ↑
“In today's rapidly evolving marketplace, successful companies differentiate themselves by creating an environment where top talent can do the best work of their lives. It begins with a fundamental premise that a leader's job is not to build greatness into people but instead to acknowledge that greatness already exists and to devote energy toward creating an environment where greatness can emerge. A Great Place For All defines a compelling blueprint for why this is important and how to transform your own practices into building a world-class environment.”
—Brad D. Smith, Chairman and CEO, Intuit
“The most successful companies have a higher purpose and are built on a foundation of trust, growth, innovation, equality, and making the world a better place for all. A Great Place to Work For All shares the essential values that every organization should follow to thrive in the future.”
—Marc Benioff, CEO, Salesforce
“It's no secret that the world of work has changed drastically, and what defines a great place to work—and a great leader—is the difference between an innovative and mission-driven company and one that remains status quo. A Great Place to Work For All builds on a thirty-year legacy of research on thousands of great workplaces and millions of employees to measure the business value of culture, mission, motivation, and leadership. Cultivating human potential for the future requires being intentional in building a caring workplace where employees know they are supported during good and challenging times, the mission remains the heart of the organization, and leaders bring out the best in everyone. This book reveals the opportunities ahead for today's leaders to create a future workplace that delivers results.”
—Bernard J. Tyson, Chairman and CEO, Kaiser Permanente
“At Wegmans, we have always believed that we can only achieve our goals by first fulfilling the needs of our people. When we lead with our hearts and live by our values, everything else falls into place, including strong business results. A workplace that fosters caring and respect for one another, at every level of the organization, is key. This is precisely the premise of this book, and by reading it and applying some of the practices, any organization can be transformed.”
—Colleen Wegman, President and CEO, Wegmans Food Markets
“When people find opportunity, trust, and camaraderie in the workplace, they proudly drive the success of their organization. The most profitable companies embrace this and welcome the chance to enhance the well-being of all their employees at every level of the organization. A Great Place to Work For All gives readers an effective, researched-based look at how to build and maintain an inclusive, high-performing culture—today and beyond. It's sure to become a must-have guide for how to sustain a thriving business that creates value and growth for all stakeholders.”
—Arne M. Sorenson, President and CEO, Marriott International, Inc.
“In a world that is increasingly uncertain and that changes constantly, employers must listen and respond to their employees' experiences—in and out of the workplace. Employers have the opportunity to lead with purpose and create an environment of stability to respond to this ‘new normal.' I believe that the companies that do this will enjoy lower attrition rates, higher ROI for recruiting efforts, increased creativity and flexibility, engaged managers, and of course, superior work quality. Business leaders must accept that creating great places to work for all is a new business imperative for success, or they risk falling behind.”
—Tim Ryan, US Chairman and Senior Partner, PwC
“A company's ability to deliver on its mission is tied directly to the passion, commitment, and resilience of its people. In my experience at Genentech, our capacity to innovate, drive progress, and help people facing serious diseases depended on maintaining a positive and productive environment for all. I believe a critical part of any leader's role is to cultivate a workplace where each person feels connected to a core purpose, valued as an individual, and able to contribute his or her best.”
—Ian Clark, former CEO, Genentech
“A Great Place to Work For All provides companies a blueprint on how to build a sustainable winning culture. No company can fulfill its potential without attracting and cultivating great people, at all levels of the organization, who know that what they do makes a difference every day. Such a winning culture does not materialize by accident but instead reflects a concerted effort to align values, people programs, and communications in a strategic way.”
—Walter White, President and CEO, Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America
“In an increasingly volatile and uncertain world, it is vitally important for business leaders to build For All workplaces where people can truly be themselves, be inspired by a compelling purpose, and work hard for the benefit of one another and their customers. For All workplaces have the potential to drive change in society, resetting both our personal and collective expectations ever higher for shared success and opportunity for all.”
—Heather J. Brunner, Chairwoman and CEO, WP Engine
“Digital disruption is impacting every business around the world, and in these uncertain times companies need to invest more than ever in their people to ensure that they can adapt and innovate. Core values and culture need to be more than a poster on the wall. They need to drive the behavior of your employees. Companies with a strong culture and highly engaged employees will not only survive but thrive and innovate!”
—Jim P. Kavanaugh, CEO, World Wide Technology
“A Great Place to Work For All skillfully relates how companies that put their people first find the greatest success and that building a culture of trust throughout an organization fuels its growth and performance.”
—Dennis Gilmore, CEO, First American Financial Corporation
“A true north to be followed by leaders in every industry, A Great Place to Work For All compels us to reach for more than financial performance and makes an inspiring argument that only by building an environment of complete trust and a culture of deeper meaning can we create an enduring company with long-lasting growth. We share these beliefs at GoDaddy, and they've been an essential part of our transformation.”
—Blake Irving, former CEO, GoDaddy
“Let's face the facts. Traditional workplace practices, many designed to simply control and cope with employees, are no longer sufficient and are even being rejected by today's workers who want more. It's time to adopt new constructs that, instead, empower employees to flourish. What's really exciting about A Great Place to Work For All is the book's detailed explanations of the specific behaviors required to maximize human potential. This is a must-read for business leaders, HR professionals, line managers, and executives who want to engage our most precious resources: people.”
—Dr. Amy Schabacker Dufrane, SPHR, CAE, CEO, HR Certification Institute
“Michael Bush taught me that investing in people and a building a high-trust culture aren't just the right things to do; they are critical to building a winning business. I can't wait to share this book with the small business owners we work with, to demonstrate how ‘For All Leadership' can help them deliver on their vision, mission, and values."
—Sean Murphy, CEO, Inner City Advisors (ICA), Fund Good Jobs